We’ve all got to go someday… but hopefully not today.
Every culture has its own lore about death omens, such as the Bean Sídhe, or banshee, of Irish folklore. However, some of those omens are a lot more likely to pop up in everyday life.
Although butterflies are usually a symbol of rebirth because of its transformation, some butterflies are much darker. Literally. Black butterflies are a death omen in some cultures. If you see one, beware!
I mean… it’s right there in the name. Deathwatch beetles bash heir heads against wooden surfaces to attract mates (have they not heard of Tinder?), creating a telltale sound. They got their name because it was the loudest sound in an old-timey sickroom as people waited for an ill person to die.
In the 90s classic Practical Magic, Sandra Bullock’s character hears a deathwatch beetle in her house and almost tears the place apart trying to find it. She hopes that by silencing the beetle, she can prevent the death omen from coming true. (Spoiler alert: That’s not what happens.)
Comets have been linked to catastrophes both big and small throughout history. Halley’s Comet in particular was often seen as a death omen. The comet swings through our corner of the solar system every 75 years. Famously, it appeared in the sky the year Samuel Clemens–AKA Mark Twan–was born and again the year that he died.
The next time it’ll show up is 2062, so honestly we don’t really need to worry about this one for a long time.
In her eerie ballad “This Tornado Loves You,” American folk-rocker Neko Case sings:
My love, I’m an owl on the sill in the evening
But morning finds you
Still warm and breathing
This is a reference to the old folk tradition that owls are death omens. The nocturnal creatures are rarely seen by humans, but it’s said that if an owl lands on your roof (or windowsill) and hoots, death is near.
If a clock–specifically a grandfather clock–stops, that’s a bad sign in many cultures. If the clock stops, it’s an omen of imminent death. One solution? Just don’t have a grandfather clock. Ha! I just outsmarted death.
Crows, ravens, magpies, and other corvids are linked to death in many cultures. In the English nursery rhyme about magpies, spotting three of the black-and-white birds indicated that a funeral was in the near future. Crows and ravens are also linked to the underworld and seen as harbingers of death.
Aww, how could you possibly think that this little baby was anything but sweet? The sad truth is that plenty of people think black cats are bad luck. That’s particularly true if a cat wanders in front of a funeral procession–it means someone else in the family will die soon.
A cat lying down next to an ill person is also said to mean they’ll die soon. However, if you’ve ever lived with cats, you know that they’ll curl up next to any heat source. Such as, you know, a sleeping person.